I guess it was supposed to be some sort of consolation, maybe even a compliment. A male friend with whom I had batted flirtations back and forth during our periods of singleness got engaged. Up until then, I hadn’t even known he was seriously involved with anyone. You know, a man can reach a certain age, hit his target income or professional goal, decide he’s ready to get married and have options at his mercy. Women don’t seem to have that luxury. We have to reflect and hope and wait and pray and self-evaluate and read Steve Harvey books and get hooked up and go on retreats and meditate and all kinds of stuff to prepare ourselves for the journey into holy matrimony. It’s quite a contrast in gender dynamics. But that’s another topic for another blog post for another day.

Anyway, to avoid being a homewrecking skank—the kind I would probably pelt with condemnation in an editorialized rant so, more specifically, to avoid being a hypocritical homewrecking skank—I told him we probably should stop talking and texting, just to be on the safe side. He agreed. But he there there’d me with this time-honored atta girl for single women: “You’re wife material,” he soothed, even though I certainly wasn’t digging for it. “If I wasn’t off the market, I’d marry you.” How reassuring, I thought. I chuckled into my bowl of cookies ‘n’ cream and life somehow went on.

What is interesting is despite the fact I’ve never been proposed to, I regularly hear that I’m “wife material” almost as much as someone asks me why I’m still single, which leaves me baffled about what these general parameters even are since those two statements sort of cancel each other out. If these inquiring minds can compartmentalize my personality and my personhood into qualities that ostensibly make me ripe for broom-jumping—can I cook? Check. Keep a clean house? Check. Reasonably intelligent? Check—then it seems questions about my marital status shouldn’t be aimed at me. And honestly, the older I get, I care just a little bit less. Just let me adopt a kid like I always planned to do, buy a turn-of-the-century fixer-upper home and live the dream, sans the mister by my side. He’s late to the party anyway.

Still, as I spin and twirl through my adventures in singleness, I find that what I don’t like gives me even more clarity into what I do appreciate. The mental picture of Mr. Right has been crystallized by run-ins with Mr. Is He Serious?, Mr. He Thinks More Highly of Himself Than I Do, Mr. His Mama Fell Down on Her J-O-B and Mr. He’s Nice But He Ain’t It.

“The One,” if there is such a thing, would be intelligent with a smart-alecky wit, equipped to feed that sapiosexual side of me with stimulating conversation while also able to crack snarky jokes and fun. He’d be progressive and an open-minded pro-womanist, but a man’s man at the same damn time. Family would be important to him, his and mine and the one we’d build together, and he’d be spiritually grounded. Not a Bible-beating zealot (Lord knows I’m too much of a loose cannon for one of those), but a man who has his own active relationship with God and who regularly harnesses the power of prayer. There are other things too, of course, but those are the heavy hitters.

Fine-tuning my vision has given me ample opportunity to know what I don’t want:

1. The guy who has Wonder Woman expectations

2. The guy who’s more groomed and coiffed than I am

3. The guy who doesn’t hold doors or offer seats to ladies in a waiting room or on public transportation

4. The guy who wears those little man ties when he’s out jogging or working out in public (scratch that—even owning them in general is a problem)

5. The guy who gets pedicures, especially with polish

6. The guy who kisses his pit bull on the mouth or treats his golden retriever like his girlfriend

7. The guy who doesn’t take an interest in what I do or what I’m interested in (that part out of “Brown Sugar” when Kelby didn’t read Sidney’s writing rang so true for me)

8. The guy who tends to be braggy or pretentious

9. A guy who has a newborn, infant or toddler because I know, from firsthand experience, he needs time to iron out his stuff with his child’s mother, especially if the baby is a product of their previous, still-smoldering relationship

10. The guy who treats waiters and bell hops like brown stuff on the bottom of his shoe

11. The guy who doesn’t like to admit he’s wrong and gets all in his feelings when he’s presented with information that proves he’s off base and still refuses to concede

12. The guy who doesn’t like to lose to a girl

13. The guy who litters

14. The guy who has to think too long about the dates of his kids’ birthdays or how old the children even are (deadbeat alert), and the guy who rolls up to holler but doesn’t acknowledge my own child beside me

15. The guy who readily bashes his ex-girlfriend, his baby mama or any other used-to-be

I may be decidedly too rascally to get married anyway, but I think every woman who even entertains the thought should have a clear idea of what she does and doesn’t like, not just the easy stuff about what he looks like and how he puts it down. Those things certainly warrant some kind of reflection because she should be consistently attracted to the dude. But it’s the digging deeper into the habits that drive her crazy, the qualities that grate her nerves and the expectations that would weigh her down that make her conscious of the standards she sets for herself. Just in case, in a weak moment, she starts settling for less.

Folks will try to make her feel like she’s being picky, especially as a gal careens into her 30s and then her mid-30s and then, God forbid, her 40s and mid-40s and hasn’t yet had that magical piece of finger candy slipped onto her hand. But most of us aren’t nearly as desperate as statistics and relationship experts think we should be. I’m real about mine. I’m flawed. I’m a single mama. I’m short and stocky and have a spare tire. And I have the audacity to have standards.

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